Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Internet Blackout Blue-Winged Olive

A popular myth says that nine months following the Northeast Blackout of 1965, New York City experienced a surge in babies being born.* Now, I'm not sure how true this is, but I had a similar experience Monday night. No, Emily's not pregnant, but my internet was out for about 6 hours and I tied a Blue-Winged Olive for the first time.

My internet went down at about 3:30 on Monday afternoon. I was working from home at the time so this was a real problem. I had to gather my laptop and high-tail it over to Starbucks to steal some wifi. When I wrapped up later in the evening, I came home to an empty house. Emily had a study group, ironically at the same Starbucks. I gave her a polite nod on my way out to avoid embarrassing her in front of her grad-school friends. Like I said, I was working from home that day and looked like crap. Not the best first impression. Not only was the internet still down, but we had recently gotten rid of cable as well. I had no idea how to waste my time, so I decided instead to actually do something productive, like tie flies.

John Gierach talks about Blue-Winged Olive constantly in his stories. Because of this, I bought Blue-Winged Olives constantly when I first started fishing. (I'm going to shorten this to BWOs for the rest of this article. It's a pain in the butt to type that out each time.) Now, I've never caught a trout on a BWO, mostly because I have only ever caught a handful of trout, but because I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy Gierach's stories so much, BWOs have always been a personal favorite of mine. So when the internet went out Monday, I thought I'd try my hand at tying one.

Blue Winged Olive
Still pumped about my new lenses.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let's Talk About Photography for Another Moment

Last week, I posted about my frustrations with photographing the flies I have been tying. To summarize, it seemed my DSLR Canon Rebel was unable to get a focused, close-up shot of any of my flies, causing me to rely on my smartphone's camera. Not optimal. However, my buddy Mike Hoffman from over at Missouri Trekking pointed me in the direction of a great, cheap solution. Mike pointed me to a 58mm macro lens kit designed specifically for my camera. I am stoked with the results.

The lenses arrived, of course, as I was walking out the front door Thursday night to leave on a weekend trip to Michigan. (It was a lovely time, by the way. Beautiful, but cold weather. Very fun wedding of a buddy from law school. The entire Great Lakes region seems to be complete frozen over. Driving through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, I saw a ton of people ice fishing.) I had to wait all the way till Sunday night to play with my new lenses and try each of them out. Here's how the pictures turned out.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lazy Sunday Nymphs

This afternoon, my wife decided she was going to go see a popular romance movie based off of a popular female romance novel of the same name that I had no interest in seeing. It gave my the opportunity to spend this dreary Sunday afternoon to stay home with the dog, listen to Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Riders, tie some flies, and wait for the incoming winter storm to hit. St. Louis is expecting 6-9 inches of snow tonight, so it looks like I'll be working from home tomorrow as well. The downside is that Part Four of the fly-tying class I was taking will probably be cancelled. Hopefully they'll reschedule.

But today I got a lot of tying practice in, and experimented with some patterns I haven't gotten to try before. Most of these come from Peter Gathercole's "The Fly-Tying Bible." I've found this book to be incredibly helpful. Gathercole manages to condense fly patterns into six photos each.

The first fly I tied, however, did not come from this book, but rather was Mike Ott's Pheasant-Tail Nymph pattern. I've been practicing this pattern for over a week, and still find it challenging to correctly form the pheasant tail legs at the head of the fly.

Pheasant-Tail Nymph
Pheasant-Tail Nymph

Can We Talk Photography for a Moment?

I started this blog for a few reasons, one of them being to share all of the photos I take on my fishing, camping, and hiking trips. Since I am beginning to tie my own flies as well, I thought it would be a good way to share photos of the flies themselves, and my progress in tying them. However, over the past few days, I've become increasingly frustrated with my camera.

Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR Camera
My Canon camera, taken with my call phone camera.
I own a Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR camera. I use the EFS 18-55mm lens that came with the camera. Overall, I love this camera. I get a lot of great shots with it on my trips, and it has also provided the Voss family with our Christmas card photos for the past two years. That said, I can't seem to get a focused, zoomed in picture of a fly to save my life with this camera.

Blurry vice
Typical result of using my Canon.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gallery - Maramec Spring, May 2014

Here's some shots from a camping trip Emily and I went on back in May, 2014 with Jake and Alice Dunlap at Maramec Spring. Jake caught quite a few fish that trip. I didn't have as much luck, but I don't believe I was completely skunked either.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Gallery - Maramec Spring, November 2014

This past November, I took a mental health day and decided one random Friday to skip work and to wake up early to drive out to St. James, Missouri to go fishing at Maramec Spring. It was a wonderful, beautiful, and ultimately delicious day.

Gallery - Montauk, November 2014

In my latest effort to avoid getting Instagram, I decided I'll be posting pictures of my fishing trips here instead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leaky Wader Repair

Author John Gierach titled his compilation fly-fishing short story anthology, "Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders" so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at all last November when I nearly froze off the lower half of my body going underneath a bridge at Montauk.

But let's back up. I started fly-fishing around late 2011/early 2012. My first time out, Emily and I went camping at Bennett Spring. I woke up bright and early to get a good spot at opening bell. I set up near the top of the damn and waited for the sun to come up and the bell to ring. However, I soon realized my perfect spot was, to use a technical term, pretty sucky. Seemed every other fisherman in the park was wading right into the water. I was marooned on the shore. I had no idea waders would be a useful investment. (I ended up getting skunked that trip. Probably had more to do with the giant flies I was using, and less to do with the lack of waders.)

My old boot-foot waders
My waders, in their prime.
Fast forward to Christmas 2012, and I received a pair of waders from my mom. (I realize now that I get a lot of fishing stuff from my mom at Christmas.) Since then, I've been able to find all the best spots on the water, and have only been dunked a handful of times, usually in front of large crowds and my wife and family. The Johnson Shut-Ins incident comes quickly to mind.

Lonk Elk Park - January 2015

A few weeks back on a particularly warm January Saturday, my wife Emily and I took a hike out at Lone Elk Park. It's a wildlife management area located just a few miles west of the City of St. Louis. You could drive past in a thousand times and never realize the beautiful landscape and animal population just next to Interstate 44. I have vague memories of driving through the park with my family as a child, but I hadn't been there for at least a decade, and was excited to check it out.

In the park, there's a great trail that loops through the entire elk region of the park. The White Bison Trail is approximately 4 miles long and beings and ends at park visitor center. The trail is fairly hilly, but nothing too treacherous. Emily and I knocked out the entire trail in a single afternoon.

Lone Elk Park Map
White Bison Trail
The best part about the trail was the wildlife. About 10 minutes into our hike, I happened to turn around and much to my surprise, the largest elk I have ever seen was laying on the ground about 15 feet away. I told Emily not to make any sudden movements, and very carefully got my camera out.

Elk - Lone Elk Park, Missouri
So maybe a little farther than 15 feet. It seemed pretty close.

Fly-Tying Class - February 2015

For the past three weeks, a new friend from work and I have been taking a fly-tying class through the Missouri Department of Conversation out at the Busch Conservation Area. This is my first ever experience tying flies and I could not be happier with the outcome.

For the longest time, I have bought my flies either from T. Hargrove's Fly Shop here in St. Louis, or from the local fly shops on the trout streams here in Missouri. However, this past Christmas, my mom, Barb, was nice enough to stalk my Amazon wishlist and give me a fly-tying set I've had my eye on. In addition, I received a fly-tying material starter kit from my godson (well, from his mom--Mikey's only three). I now had everything I needed to start tying flies (except thread, hackle, pheasant tails, dubbing fur, any sort of knowledge base, etc. etc. etc.).

Back in November, in my fly-fishing club's monthly newsletter, I saw that a four-part class beginning in January would be available. I quickly called the Department of Conservation to register and was told (by an Australian sounding woman, oddly enough) that registration was only available a month in advance. Fast forward to a month in advance, and I was all registered to go. The class would be taught in four parts, gradually increasing in difficulty and building upon the past weeks' lessons. Like I said, the class takes place way out at the August A. Busch Conservation Area near Interstate 64 and Highway 94. It's a fantastic area with a great deal of forests, plains, an fishable ponds. However, it's nowhere near my house or my job. (Busch Conservation Area really is a jewel for the St. Louis area. I'll need to write more about it in the future.) As luck would have it, a new guy had just started working at my job, and is a fly-fisherman out from Colorado now living in western Illinois. When I told him about the fly-tying class, he was eager to sign up as well, so at least now I could carpool to the class.

The class is put on by that fly-fishing club that I mentioned earlier, the Ozark Fly Fishers (OFF). I've been a member of this club for two years now and they're a great group. Most of the time, I'm the youngest person in the meetings by about 30 years, but that's just fine with me. I joined the club to learn from those who have been fly-fishing for a long time, and they're a perfect fit. They have monthly meetings and quarterly outings, and even have an environmentalist branch and participate in water monitoring and stream clean-up activities. If you're in the St. Louis area and even have a remote interest in fly-fishing, I'd suggest joining. But anyways, this post is about fly-tying. The fly-tying class is instructed by Mike Ott, OFF's Fly-Tying Chair. Mike makes fly-tying look incredibly easy, and his step-by-step instructions make it so that I don't go completely cross-eyed trying to follow along.

The back of Mike's head, as he explains a Pheasant Tail Nymph.

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